about me

recent thought / activity




    See the full list at LibraryThing




    more on literary "risk"

    There's a hot comment thread over at the Chicago Poetry blog in response to a long, grumpy post by Ray Bianchi (of Postmodern Collage Poetry).

    It's difficult to describe the real thrust of Bianchi's argument because it's based largely in generalized abstractions, of the sort that make me a little bit crazy: he's calling for work that is "innovative" and "intellectually honest" without making any attempt to define what these terms might mean in the context of this discussion. I'm occasionally guilty of the same thing, although at least last summer when I was complaining about a lack of literary "risk," the vagueness of what I actually meant bugged me enough that I eventually wrote a long post complete with a complicated diagram to try to get at it.

    I'm made similarly crazy when Bianchi says this: "poetry should be more than comfortable. It ought to challenge and ask questions." To my mind, any articulation of a desire to see art (of any sort) be more "challenging" should also contain articulation of who exactly we'd like to see "challenged" by it. Bianchi seems unhappy with the level of mutual admiration in the experimental poetry community and so maybe wants poets to write work that will "challenge" each other, although in a group that so admires the production of difficult and abstract work it's hard to know how you could get more challenging, at least at the level of formal innovation. Radical juxtaposition, chance operations and arbitrariness, wholesale appropriation, extreme patterning and repetition, the complete negation of lyrical subjectivity—all of these are "challenging" techniques that have been long accepted by this community. It seems to me like the prime challenge that experimental Chicago poets are offering one another is the opportunity go further, to be stranger: this is a form of challenge that I, for one, appreciate, although I don't think it's the type Bianchi has in mind, as it depends precisely on the sort of mutual admiration that he seems so dismissive of.

    If he's looking to "challenge" the general public, the average Barnes-and-Noble book-buyer, I'd say that poetry is already doing this pretty well, pretty regularly: it's part of the reason why poetry books don't exactly fly off the shelves. I'd like to know how Bianchi squares his desire for a more challenging poetry with his belief that "poets cannot be content to create art just for ourselves." It seems, to me, like these ideals are at different ends of the same axis. And I don't think that there's any shame—any shame—in poets producing an art for themselves: this has been a trend in poetry for at least the last 900 years. I like the way Silliman puts it in the post I'm linking to there: a poetry intended for other poets is "the medium in which the poet demands the very utmost of him- or herself ... [where we find] the elements of poetry that, by definition, cannot be bled off into other genres."

    Rantings aside, one advantage of participating in this thread is that I found links to the blogs of two more observers of the Chicago poetry scene: Steve Halle and Robert Archambeau. Both of their blogs look worth digging around in.


    Friday, February 17, 2006
    10:30 AM


    Comments: Post a Comment



    2011 archive >>

    2010 >>

    2009 >>

    2008 >>

    2007 >>

    2006 >>

    2005 >>

    2004 >>

    2003 >>

    2002 >>

    rss (xml)